Tobold posted today about a site hoping to be for MMO gaming what Wikileaks is for the real world — a way for players in the betas for upcoming games to alert people to potential problems in the game.
These sorts of leaks can be useful — news that a game is a horribly buggy entirely unfinished travesty a la Dark & Light can warn a publisher to put a game back in the oven for a bit.
A quick reading of Betaleaks’ coverage of Warhammer: Age of Reckoning and Age of Conan shows mostly that both these games are being actively tuned, and that most of the objections to both are extremely subjective.
Warhammer has two posts of note; one from August 2007, which shows a rough game still very much in development; and one from January 2008 that shows incredible progress and incremental tuning of public quests, PvP, and PvP vs PvE rewards. Most every detail, though, is subjective. They don’t like the art style. Combat is too repetitive. PvP is dominated by griefers and solo PvP is not a viable option. It’s too much like WoW…
(And a note to Warhammer fans: as much as this game strives not to be compared to WoW, the rest of the world will be making that exact comparison. So suck it up and deal with it. This game will be marked a success or a failure almost entirely on how it either competes or complements the WoW experience.)
When you get down to subjective matters — if that’s all you can say about the game — then you’ve lost me, because you and I like different things. Many people don’t like EverQuest 2; but I do. Though I played World of Warcraft for awhile, in the end I found it dull and grindy — and yet millions of people feel exactly the opposite about it. People dismiss Vanguard out of hand, but I think it has a little geeky charm. Some people are slavering over Age of Conan, but I don’t think its twitchy gameplay and pandering to the Xbox Live “blood, guts and boobies” crowd will do it for me.
The very fact that both AoC and Warhammer are still in closed beta should be a sign that things are still changing too much, too fast, to make real judgments. It’s probably best if beta players who, after all, signed NDAs, honored their commitment to them and made sure the developers know about their problems with the game so they can do something about them.
When the NDA drops or open beta begins — that’s the time to come forth and say, hey, I told them about all this in beta, they did nothing, here’s all the dope about it. It’s at that time that the devs have invited the world to see what they’ve done in a nearly finished state, when they’re proud of what they made, and they want you to do your worst.
Age of Conan should be going to open beta in a couple of weeks. Closed beta testers — tell Funcom what you don’t like about the game! Breaking NDAs just encourages devs to be more and more suspicious of the people they let into their beta, limiting its effectiveness.
I’m the kind of player who seems never to get into closed betas, so naturally I read every shred of information about upcoming games I’m interested in. And just like everyone else, I distrust what marketing people say about their game by reflex. I’m sure nearly every player in the world knows enough to be skeptical of pre-release claims. So when I read that EA/Mythic has tuned public quests from too easy to too hard, I just hope that the beta players let EA/Mythic know before they blurted this all out on public forums.
When you sign an NDA, you are making a pact with a company that you KNOW you will be seeing an unfinished game with placeholder assets, broken things, crashes, unbalanced elements, and all that sort of stuff. You agree to find these things and try to help the company make the game better so that everything works well, is playable and fun, by the time they throw open the doors to the public.
If you don’t feel this is the sort of thing you can do — don’t sign the NDA, don’t play the beta, and just wait to play it in its finished form just like the rest of us.
Betaleaks — bad idea.